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Blundellsands Sailing Club

Sailing / Yacht Club , Hightown, Merseyside, England, UK

In, or before 1897, a group of local sailing enthusiasts formed the Altmouth Sailing Club: indeed it is possible that the Blundellsands Sailing Club existed as early as 1891 as the following article appeared in the “Yachtsman” on May 16th 1891: “The club was started some three or four years ago by a few young and enthusiastic boat sailors resident in the neighborhood, and has acted as a very efficient cradle for some of the senior clubs.”

The main interests in those days appear to have been racing in small canoe yawls. These were centerboard boats about 18 feet in length, many being designed and built by their owners.

Reports in the “Yachtsman” in 1892 mention that the “. Blundellsands Sailing Club has received notice to remove their clubhouse.” Later that year, “it was unanimously decided to remove the clubhouse (Mark I) to a suitable site near the mouth of the River Alt, where boats will be able to get in and out at about two and a half hours flood.”

Certainly the Altmouth Sailing Club existed from 1897 and continued until 1906, when it was dissolved and another club started which adopted the name The Burbo Sailing Club. This continued until 1914, when it was changed to the Blundellsands Sailing Club shortly before the outbreak of the First World War put an end to its activities.

The few published references, to these early years, give the impression that the membership was drawn from among the wealthy families living in the then exclusive suburb of Hall Road, Blundellsands.

Since 1930, successive Honorary Secretaries have kept minutes of the meetings, when the subscription was reduced to 5/-. (From that recorded in 1900 of 10/-.) Then, as now, the club premises appear to have been inadequate, for J Dickenson was empowered to expend the sum of £5 upon a suitable building. (Mark II)

Not for B.S.C, the splendors of a purpose built brick clubhouse. However, that could have been due to the next disaster, which affected the Club, when the River Alt changed course, sweeping most of the large riverside Victorian properties in Blundellsands into the sea. This could have been due to the construction of the revetment walls in 1937, which retain The Crosby, Queens and Formby Channels within the River Mersey.

1933 produced no less than four General Meetings. The Meeting in February authorized the construction of a clubhouse at a cost of £22. (Mark III) Members were warned that “four successive Sundays” had been allotted to the construction of the new building. Absence from the working parties would cost half a crown a time. The system must have been effective, since the AGM was held in the new building in April 1933. Revised Club Rules were discussed and the club burgee approved as `Bright Green with a White Ball`. Club Members had begun to take an interest in racing and the progenitor of the present Sailing Committee was formed.

At the October 1937 meeting, the membership approved an amendment of the Burgee to “a navy blue cross – to be added to the white ball.” Racing was again discussed, and affiliation to the R.Y.A. agreed. Later in the year, the members authorized the Committee to press on with the provision of a new clubhouse (Mark IV) and a sub-committee was appointed to cope with details. Following the agreement to `overdraw` to the amount of £30 at the Bank, a meeting was held in the New Clubhouse 10 winter weeks later. Fate again took a hand, when the Clubhouse was almost totally wrecked in a gale and would have been lost but for quick action taken by two stalwart members.

At the 1938 A.G.M. before the meeting closed, there was discussion on the question of adopting, as a One Design Class, a new “Sharpie,” which had been designed by Gerry Tyrer, a club member. The matter was left in the hands of the Sailing Committee but of course the sands of time were running out and World War II intervened, before the design was adopted.

In 1939, a note of disaster was struck in the Secretary’s opening remarks, when he refers to the complete wrecking of the new Boathouse and the coastal erosion that was forcing the Club to search for new grounds. (This meeting being held in The Clubroom, “Syntony”, Hall Road West). However, it is pleasant to note that these events had little effect on the morale of the Club. A summary of the accounts showed a credit balance of £15, with “stocks” also at £15. Twenty-five full and six junior members had joined during the year and the membership now stood at 79. Racing “appeared to have come to stay” and the newly formed House Committee could boast a net profit of £11.

Although a couple of members, returning from war service had their boats on moorings for the 1946 season it was not until the next year, 1947, that the Club was reactivated. It had been under the stewardship of “three trustees”, for a period of six and a half years. Crosby Council, to prevent further erosion of property in Blundellsands, had diverted the course of the River Alt. One result of this was that the Pre-war Mooring area had to alter and boats were now moored further up river, nearer to Hightown.

The Club was very fortunate to be presented with an existing rugged hut, `Mack’s Hut`, (Mark V) located at Mack’s Bend on the north shore of the Alt, known today as “The Black Hut”. This was rumored to have been used, in days gone by, to house any drowned bodies washed up on the tide. A piece of Land was leased from the Blundell Estate and fenced off by a working party. The subscription was set at 30/- and the first race was held on 7th September 1947. Five “big class” and eight “small class” boats turned out.

At the 1948 A.G.M., the Commodore proposed that C.G.Mack be elected as the 4th honorary life Club Member in recognition of his gift of “The Black Hut”. He also proposed the final change to the Club Burgee, to that of a green pennant with a white St George’s cross.

Despite the lack of premises, (The Black Hut being suitable only for storing gear) membership increased steadily and numbered 65 by January 1950. By then, the financial position was sufficiently secure to justify the purchase of an ex-Army hut measuring 30 ft x 14 ft. (Mark VI) This was dismantled and re-erected, a short distance away from The Black Hut, by yet another working party. This structure still forms the basis of the Clubhouse. Additional land for a Boat Yard was leased from The Blundell Estate at this time. The Yard, being sited further up river alongside the Altcar Rifle Range is well sheltered, tucked in as it is behind the well-established sand hills. There was also much easier access by road, a luxury not afforded at this time to the Clubhouse, which was surrounded by sand hills, half a mile to the South.

Navigation and perch management was instigated by the Sailing Committee and the task of perching from the mouth of the Alt to the yard was handed to the Club Captain, together with that of the annual beach clean up, when all of stranded timbers, washed up by the tides, are collected each year for the Bonfire on November 5th.

The 1951 A.G.M. was the last of the five to be held at “The Hightown Hotel”, since the Club had reformed after the war. Although not finished, the Clubhouse was finally established in its present day location. The self-help of the members, both in construction and in the supply of material continued. However, the work was not proceeding as well as it might, for the Commodore said " that with a little more regular help the club house might be in a fit state for use during the 1951 season". Two cross partitions were proposed at an anticipated cost of £45, if the members did all the work. This item created considerable debate and it was finally decided the Club House should be completed by working parties, detailed by the Committee. A very long debate then ensued on the subject of the Club Dinner. By only a narrow margin, it was decided to have the event and to invite members of other clubs.

The fleet continued to grow in size. There were about 10 cabin boats and a number of sailing dinghies. The latter especially so, due to the adoption and consequent construction, of what the A.G. M. determined would be called the “Alt One Design”. Initially 10 were built or were building in 1951, of what eventually became known as the “Tyrer One Design”. This little clinker pram dinghy with its snub bow was of course, the fulfillment of the motion first mooted back in 1938. The class eventually swelling to 20, before the Yachting World National G.P.14 and Enterprise Classes replaced them for racing.

By the time of the 1953 A.G.M. the total membership had reached 128. The Black Hut had been transformed by the provision of spar racks and lockers; the fencing of the club property completed; the Clubhouse painted and a “gentleman’s lavatory” built, complete with a drainage system. A start had been made on the water supply and an extension to the Clubhouse had been started. Plans were in hand for the provision of Calor gas lighting system. The Ladies Committee held a dance and a Novelty Race was held in aid of the R.N.L.I. (Still an annual event, when the Club holds an `Open Day` for the local Community when the Inshore Rescue Lifeboats Boats visit by sea, from New Brighton and Southport.)

The Club Secretary, who was also responsible for the demolition of a bomb shattered building in Liverpool, found the hardcore necessary to provide a long overdue road if consent could be obtained, The road commenced from what was then the tiny stub of Thornbeck Avenue by the War Memorial in Hightown. The Commodore laid the first brick on the 9th October at 9.10 am.1954. The increasing number of G.P.14 in the club fleet was indicated by the presentation of the Crinette Cup, for the class.

Dinghy sailing continued to develop over the next 18 years, with little cause for concern, since the Clubhouse, albeit still lit by gaslight, was well established, served by a car park and a good road from Hightown. The first brick extension to the Club, complete with a shatterproof picture window, was built in 1967 although it took another 10 years to complete the internal furnishings.

The development of the Seaforth Dock and a Marina Lake at Crosby in 1972 began to deplete the dinghy fleet. However, there were more than enough members who, growing older, could now afford larger boats, which they continued to race in the Mersey estuary. In 1989 there were 55 large boats accommodated in the boat yard in Hightown. Thanks to the efforts of a working party in 1990, further ground was leveled to extend the usable area.

In 1973 further property development in Hightown, reduced the area of open land surrounding the Clubhouse. This had been a disadvantage when the building was broken into and vandalized. Things got so bad early in the 80`s, that members had to man a “boat watch” for each night, throughout the sailing season. This, of course, was the final straw for the last of the dinghies. Tenders used for the larger boats, on the moorings, took up their place in the dinghy park.

By 1975 the timber framed buildings, (bought second-hand in 1950) required urgent maintenance. A Sports Council Grant was sought, to rebuild the walls in cavity brickwork and provide a new extension to the rear of the building, incorporating a Bar stockroom, Kitchen, Rear Entrance Lobby and a Gents Toilet. Great doubts were expressed, as to the financing of this venture, to the extent that a levy was raised to start the works, in case the grant application failed. 90% of the original concept was however, completed and the grant was successful. The only casualties were the low headroom in the Gents and the original drainage system outfall, which the Flag Officers were having to rod regularly, as and when it became blocked by bricks, which were forced up the drain 4-inch drain by the tide.

The late 70`s was a great Social period for the Club. Much to the alarm of some members who just wanted a quiet life and did not concur with the Club being hired out to all in sundry on such a regular basis. However, the Bar profits brought in the much-needed finance. Enough in fact by 1984, to finally furnish the extension built in 1967, and provide for a new 6 inch drainage outfall system, via a filter system, to an outlet under the sea defense wall which had been constructed in 1980 to prevent further loss off land in front of the clubhouse.

In 1989, the opening of the Liverpool Marina and the racing programs inaugurated by the Liverpool Yacht Club affected the Large Class racing. As the racing crews departed to Liverpool, the Club concentrated on cruising and a smaller racing programme.

In 1989 a new roof was constructed over the top of the existing roof of the main clubroom in order to keep the existing internal characture of the club. A new floor was provided in 1996.

In 2000, due to further coastal erosion and storm damage, the sea defense wall had to be rebuilt to make it safe and improve its appearance. A new septic tank system was installed to replace the original that had been swept away by the sea.

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Blundellsands Sailing Club

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